How to Avoid iPhone & iPod Hearing Loss

Woman listening to iPod with headphones
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It’s ironic that the very thing that drives most people to get an iPhone or an iPod — a love of music — could prevent their ability to enjoy it. Listening to music on your iPhone too much, or too loud, can lead to hearing loss, depriving you of the ability to enjoy music.

Even though most of us don’t think too much about it, iPhone hearing loss is a serious risk for many users of Apple devices and other smartphones.

A growing body of research shows that how we listen to our iPhones can cause lasting hearing damage. The iPhone and iPod can produce a maximum of 100-115 decibels (software limits European iPods to 100 dB; U.S. models have been measured higher), which is the equivalent of attending a rock concert.

Some studies have even found that some people in their 20s have hearing loss more typical of 50-year-olds, thanks to exposure to music at this volume. This isn’t an iPhone-specific problem: Walkman users had the same problem in the 80s. Clearly, hearing loss is something to take seriously.

So what can an iPhone user concerned about hearing damage, but who doesn’t want to give up their iPhone, do?

7 Tips to Avoid iPhone Hearing Loss

  1. Don’t Listen So Loud: Most researchers agree that it's safe to regularly listen to your iPod or iPhone at about 70 percent of its maximum volume. Listening at anything louder than that over an extended period of time is risky. It's probably better to listen at a lower volume, though.
  2. Use Volume Control: In response to consumer concerns, Apple offers a volume limit setting for some iPods and iPhones. On the iPhone, you can find this option in Settings -> Music -> Volume Limit and then move the slider to your preferred maximum. It's also possible to limit the volume of individual songs, but that's much less efficient, especially if you have thousands of songs in your library.
  3. Limit Your Listening: Volume isn't the only thing that can contribute to hearing loss. The length of time you listen is important, too. If you listen at a higher volume, you should listen for a shorter time. Besides that, giving your ears a chance to rest between listening sessions will help them.
  4. Use the 60/60 Rule: Since the combination of volume and length of listening can cause hearing loss, researchers recommend applying the 60/60 rule. The rule suggests listening to an iPhone for 60 minutes at 60 percent of its maximum volume and then taking a break. Ears that get a rest have time to recover and are less likely to be permanently damaged.
  1. Don’t Use Earbuds: Despite their inclusion with every iPod and iPhone, researchers caution against using Apple’s earbuds (or those from other manufacturers). Earbuds are more likely to cause hearing damage than headphones that sit over the ear. They can also be up to 9 dB louder than over-the-ear headphones (not such a big deal when you’re going from 40 to 50 dB, but much more serious going from 70 to 80).
  2. Use Noise Dampening or Cancelling Headphones: The noise around us can cause us to change how we listen to an iPod or iPhone. If there’s a lot of noise nearby, it’s likely that we’ll turn up the iPhone’s volume, thus increasing the chances of hearing loss. To cut down on, or eliminate, ambient noise, use noise–canceling headphones. They’re more expensive, but your ears will thank you. For some suggestions, check out The 8 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones.
  3. Never Max It Out: Though it’s easy to find yourself listening to your iPhone at max volume, try to avoid this at all costs. Researchers advise that it's safe to listen to your iPod or iPhone at maximum volume for only 5 minutes.